This year's winners and losers

  • 2001-04-12
  • Jorgen Johansson
RIGA - The annual society award the Cicerons, which is presented for outstanding performance in society and the media, and the Murphy, which is awarded for quite the contrary, are scheduled for April 17. The nominations were announced last week.

The combined event is organized by the University of Latvia, the Academy of Science and the Journalists' Union. There are several nominees for the Cicerons, including both locals and foreigners. Among the foreigners are diplomats, ambassadors and President of Iceland Olafur Ragnar Grimsson. Latvian President Vaira-Vike Freiberga is also included on the list of people who have distinguished themselves.

But it is the award of the Murphy that the public is really taking notice of. There are currently only two nominees. Tim Sebastian of the BBC television interview show "Hardtalk," who interviewed Vike-Freiberga last year and tried his hardest to get her to admit that there is a chasm between Latvians and the Russian-speaking minority, is first on the list.

"Tim Sebastian, I think, is a little out of place," said Juris Kaza, a journalist at Dienas Bizness.. "He can be cranky and mean, but that's just his style. I don't think people here really know what Sebastian is all about."

The other nominee is Swedish filmmaker Pal Hollender for his film "Buy, Bye Beauty," about Latvian women and their relationship with foreign businessmen, especially Swedish ones.

The film prompted the Latvian Interior Ministry to consider suing Hollender for some of the allegedly slanderous statements he made in the film, including the allegation that 50 percent of all Latvian women between the ages of 18 and 30 have prostituted themselves at least once to make ends meet.

"This nominee is totally appropriate," said Kaza, who sat in on the TV debate in Sweden following the first Swedish broadcast of the film. "Hollender's 'Buy, Bye Beauty' deserves the prize."

Ligita Azovska, president of the Journalists' Union, confirmed to The Baltic Times that these were the only two foreigners considered for the Murphy so far. This could change, however, before April 17.

"We Latvians have been too good this year for the Murphy," Azovska said, explaining why no Latvians are on the Murphy shortlist.

Kaza said he was a little surprised that there are so few nominees and that both of them are from outside Latvia.

"In previous years, most of the nominees have been involved in outrageous things happening in Latvia," he said.

The Cicerons prize is a small glass sculpture of Marcus Tullius Cicero's face. His life coincided with the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, and he was an important actor in many of the significant political events of his time. Cicero was, among other things, an orator, a lawyer, a politician and a philosopher. For the Murphy, the statue is similar except it is a sculpture showing the back of Cicero's head.